Since 2004, the Japan Foundation has organised a touring Japanese film programme in close partnership with distinguished film venues across the UK. Each year, a handpicked selection of films are carefully chosen to highlight trends in Japanese cinema and showcase the versatility and uniqueness displayed by Japanese filmmakers. It also acts as a showcase for directors and films which may have slipped under the radar of more mainstream festivals.
Some of the highlights include:
Memoirs of a Murderer
When a legal loophole allows a string of unsolved brutal murders to pass the statute of limitations, the fame-hungry killer, known as the Tokyo strangler (Tatsuya Fujiwara), suddenly emerges in public spotlight, announcing the release of his “tell-all” book confessing to the unsolved brutal murders committed decades ago. Watching the media frenzy unfold is detective Makimura (Hideaki Ito), wracked by his failure to crack the case years ago. However, a series of lingering questions leads Makimura to delve deeper in search of closure.
Room to Let
When Yumiko Tsuyama, a potter by profession, enters an old mansion overlooking Osaka enquiring about a room to rent, she discovers a bizarre collection of characters dwelling in the humble abode. There’s a low-level gangster and panty thief, an old army sergeant and cabbage roll specialist, and a female illegal liquor vendor – to name a few. The leader of the menagerie is Yoda Goro, an eccentric jack of all trades; his simplicity and naivety, however, leave him susceptible to unscrupulous manipulators.
Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) is a 55-year-old office drone, depressed, lovelorn and chain-smoking her way to an early grave. One day, Setsuko finds salvation in the form of John, a teacher in a run-down Tokyo English school who has a rather unorthodox approach to education which includes giving Setsuko the English name “Lucy”. Knowing that John has abruptly left Tokyo to return home, Setsuko sets off to the States on a journey of discovery…
MUMON: Land of Stealth
Mumon (Satoshi Ono) is an invincible shinobi of the Iga ninja clan. Despite his lazy nature he is eager to seek money to keep his wife Okuni (Satomi Ishihara) happy. In the deadly war against the imperious warlords, the Nobunaga clan, Mumon leads the Iga family to battle with a secret plan and some of the most cunning and unimaginable tactics.
The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji
Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) is an inept rookie cop with a strong sense of justice. Fired for trying to arrest a city councillor caught molesting a teenage girl, he is secretly re-hired as an undercover agent and sent on a mission to infiltrate Sukiya-kai, Japan’s most notorious Yakuza clan. Suffering various hardships along the way, Reiji fights to survive the ruthless yakuza world by becoming a sworn brother to the senior member, Crazy Papillon (Shinichi Tsutsumi), whilst acting as an informer to the police.
Sword of the Stranger
In feudal era Japan, young Kotaro is pursued by the royal army of China’s Ming Dynasty. When his loyal dog Tobimaru is injured in an ambush, Kotaru reluctantly recruits a mysterious, nameless samurai as his bodyguard. However, “No-name” has a guilty past and his own inner demons to battle.
This beautifully curated programme will be coming to 18 venues across the UK through February and March. To find out more, visit the Japan Foundation website.